There are many things to consider when hiring a translation service provider, as translation encompasses several specific stages where you have to take into account some important aspects to make sure everything is in order.
That is increasingly important in this industry with the growing demand for translation services, which is breaking records every year.
You have some documents you need to translate and a lot of questions come to your mind if you haven’t hired this service before or you don’t have much experience with this task.
And it’s no wonder, as you have to take into account many issues to translate a text on time and with the quality you need.
In this article, I will show you some useful insights that will help you succeed in this process the right way and avoiding many hassles.
There are three main stages in the process that you have to address:
- Steps to follow before hiring
- Things to consider during the process
- Checklist to follow afterward
Things to consider before hiring a translation service provider
One of the first decisions you have to make is whether you will translate, edit or proofread your documents through a translation agency or a professional translator, the two translation service providers you can draw on in the marketplace for this purpose.
This is important because each option has its pros and cons and your choice here will impact the whole process afterward.
A professional translator will be the person in charge of translating your documents, whether he/she is an employee or an independent freelancer, as the vast majority of translation agencies, if not all, do not have enough people in-house to fulfill the requirements of most of the translation projects, and they will have to turn to a freelancer to get the job done.
However, translation agencies provide some other resources, such as project managers, who take care of some additional tasks.
This is an important point to consider if you need a translation service that involves several language pairs, different domains, a variety of audiences, dissimilar tone of the texts, among other important aspects.
Here are some minimum aspects to consider before hiring a translation service and how to address them you can check on your own and that will save you a lot of time, efforts and troubles.
- Know your audience
- Define the scope of your project
- Translation domain
- Translation provider expertise
- Style and tone
- Machine vs. Human translation
- Translating, editing, revising and/or proofreading
- Decide on your budget
- Decide on the quote you need
- Turnaround time
- Make sure your source text is correct
- Choose an editable format, if possible
- Specific instructions
Know your audience
The main goal of your text is to provide your audience with a clear and impactful reading experience.
You need to know your audience as much as possible.
Maybe you already provided your clients some texts in the past or you have previous experience crafting appealing messages for your audience.
Whatever your background in this matter is, having your end clients in mind and what they expect is a must.
A research on your industry niche will give you an idea of the quality of texts your competitors are conveying and what your expectations should be.
Make sure your text is accurate, clear and appealing, no matter what kind of audience you are targeting to.
Sometimes checking your source text will reveal some potential improvements and this will impact the final translation.
This is a great starting point for the success of your project and one of the key aspects to take into account from the earliest steps.
Define the scope of your project
Sometimes your project has a clear target audience and you know your potential readers, their interests, needs, and expectations.
If so, you are in a good position to give your project the translation resources required to produce a great copy in your target language.
But this is not always the case.
The target audience may comprise several readers, whether in terms of cultural background, industry, products and services and so on.
So, make sure your text conveys the right message and that it targets the audience you pursue, as this will influence the translation.
Once you have defined your target audience, it’s time to decide which linguistic services you will need.
Every translation is reviewed or should be, at least one time by the same or another linguist in order to spot any misspellings, typos and grammar issues.
However, it’s not uncommon giving the text a second and even a third review by other linguists. Your service provider will advise in this regard.
Also, it’s recommended to give the text a style and readability check that will enhance fluency and reading experience, avoiding or removing clichés, redundancies, sticky sentences, and inconsistencies.
Each of these tasks will increase the price, as they are usually quoted separately and translation providers, both freelancers, and agencies, can provide you a quotation according to your needs.
Translation provider expertise
This step is crucial, and one of the first decisions you will make is whether you need a professional translator or a translation agency.
So take your time and research the market before deciding on your provider.
I receive dozens of CVs a week from would-be translators looking for jobs in the early stages of their careers, and many of them lack the background, experience, and knowledge required to provide a sound translation.
Translation and copywriting, like any creative activity, needs time and efforts to develop, and even talented professionals have a long way to go before being able to produce an amazing copy.
In any case, make sure your future provider will have the expertise, experience, rigor, and reliability your project needs.
There is plenty of resources and information online that will help you find out which vendors meet these requirements and which one could be your final choice.
One great website you can rely on is ProZ.com. It’s known as the best translation service portal in the world, and will provide you a ton of useful information on which service provider better suits your needs.
At ProZ.com you have free access to information such as contact details and feedback from clients, similar to the information you would find at Trustpilot, PowerReviews and the like.
Style and tone
Any single text can be subject to a different style and tone approach, depending on your intended audience.
Some languages use different tones for pronouns according to the target reader and a mistake in this regard can make your copy sound inappropriate and even trivial.
For instance, a text for the general public, such as advertising spots, uses an informal tone, as it seeks to generate emotions and draw the public’s attention.
Corporate documents, such as companies’ memorandums and annual accounts, should be formal and factual.
These factors all contribute to making your text correct, fluent and readable and that it has the right style according to your intended message.
Machine vs. human translation
Machine vs. human translation dilemma has been on the rise in recent years.
Machine translation (MT) is a fast-moving technology that has become more accurate over the past few years, and businesses are reaping their ever-growing benefits.
To a large extent, they have achieved the aim of MT, with many systems enabling a conversation between speakers of different languages.
However, machines are only codes and instructions and human intervention is required to correct any misspellings, typos, and grammar issues.
Depending on the quality level of an MT system, the translator/editor will have to review the copy to such an extent that it is not infrequent that the efforts and time needed for this task may take about the same as translating the source text from scratch.
Not to mention it is hard to figure out that one day a machine will produce a piece of text with the beauty and nuances of human creation, provided we still don’t know what art is and how the process of artistic creativity takes place.
I’ve come across MT copies with such a poor quality that, after glancing through the content, I had to refuse the job given the time needed for editing was higher than directly translating the source.
To sum up, when hiring an MT service make sure you know the process involved and that a thorough expert human review is implemented.
This information should be readily available to clients within the service provider’s quality control procedure.
Translating, editing, revising and/or proofreading
Translating a text involves not only a mere translation, but it’s always required to implement at least one review, and two is recommended.
Humans make mistakes, and translation and copy creation are subject to this unavoidable problem.
That’s why reviewing and editing the final text is a must.
The terms editing, revising (or reviewing) and proofreading refer to different tasks, although they may overlap at some point.
The review is the step that follows the first draft and the goal here is to make sure the text meets all the requirements previously set out.
Examples of these requirements are the fluency, clarity, and relationship between different parts, tone and style according to the target audience.
Editing is the task of verifying grammar, punctuation and spelling and, in the case of translation, that the source and target copies convey the same message.
Proofreading takes care of the spelling and punctuation, spotting and fixing typos and formatting issues, but unlike editing and review, this is the final step before publishing and encompasses only the analysis of the target language in terms of spelling and punctuation.
The goal here is to make sure that the copy complies with the client’s requirements and that it looks amazing.
Each of these tasks should be clearly defined in the scope of the work you will hire, so keep it in mind and ask the provider if you are in doubt.
Decide on your budget before hiring a translation service
Your budget for a translation or copywriting related task will depend on the requirements you set out according to your needs.
Considering all the aforementioned aspects, decide the scope of the work and the corresponding budget.
Request your provider a detailed quote, even if you are not sure what all the tasks will be beforehand.
Your provider can assist you to develop the project scope, and this is a common practice.
The more requirements and linguistic tasks are needed, the higher your budget will be.
But, in most cases, this will redound to higher quality output. It’s usually worthwhile given the wide array of quality levels in the market.
Your service provider will be of help at detailing your specific needs and the final budget you will need.
Decide on the quote you need
Once your budget is clearly defined, the next step is to request a detailed quotation that suits your needs.
Make sure all your specific requirements are included in the quotation and that you are good to go before signing up.
Usually, service providers have a standard quotation form that you can fill in or they can provide you a standard quote with most common linguistic tasks.
Review this information in detail and do not hesitate to clarify any unclear scope of work received, as this will avoid a lot of hassles afterward.
Turnaround time is the period between the signing up of your service agreement and the receipt of your final copy.
It’s recommended to be flexible at this point, as this is a creative task that requires time, usually more than expected, and your provider will be of great help in this regard.
Most translators and copywriters are freelancers, their workload is not consistent over time, and they find themselves overwhelmed with work frequently.
So you need to be patient and follow the advice of your service provider, as this will be reflected in the quality of the final text.
Make sure your source text is correct
Sometimes, the source text may not be accurate and may include typos, misspellings and/or grammatical errors. You may try to review the source text yourself if it is in your native language and you feel confident.
This can spot some evident mistakes. Otherwise, let a professional take a look at your documents before requesting a translation.
Your language service provider can also take care of this task.
Once you are sure your source text is correct, it’s time to move on to the next step.
Choose an editable format, if possible
If you need to translate your documents, always try to provide an editable file format, as this will simplify the tasks and will also impact your budget.
Freelance translators and translation agencies can take care of this, but it may require a typist to produce the final copy.
Having a sound editable source text for your translation is always recommendable and there are many available software options in the market that, in most cases, will be a cheaper and acceptable option.
Specific instructions when hiring a translation service
You know your source text better than anyone else, so nobody knows what it needs to be done better than you.
Note down all instructions your provider has to take into account to achieve your goals in terms of quality and requirements for your final copy.
Your service provider will probably ask you questions in this regard, and you should verify they will make every provision for the quality of your text.
This may include a clarification on the formal/informal voice and tone, target audience, the need to prepare a preliminary glossary that you should approve or amend, previous existing translations that you know are correct for your purpose that may serve as a reference, etc.
Occasionally, there are several options for translating a term in the source language that may require your input, so be alert to this situation and do not hesitate to request advice to your language service provider.
Things to consider during the process
Once you have selected your language service provider, you are now well on your way, and it’s time to move on to the next step.
But stay alert as you may need to provide answers to questions from your newly contracted provider.
There are many reasons to come up with questions during this process, and every language has its peculiarities based on cultural, linguistic and stylistic aspects.
The number of questions raised during this process will depend on the size of the project, audience, complexity of texts and probably subjective views, especially if a panel of several linguists is working on your copy.
Again, a thorough and expert professional will properly handle these issues and will help you avoid unnecessary hassles.
I have come across many texts where translation lacking fluency, accuracy and/or use of correct terms, and this will delay the lead time to a great extent.
Checklist to follow after hiring a translation service
A final checklist will help you attain the required level of quality, and it’s always recommended to check or verify some important points with your language provider, including completeness, spelling and other mistakes, figures, titles and headings, quotes, footnotes, terminology, hyperlinks and formatting, tables and pictures, page breaks, and compliance with instructions, among others.
Your translation should always follow the standards of the target language and locale-specific needs regarding grammar and spelling.
Although every translator is expected to review her/his translation at least one time, this doesn’t guarantee the text is free of typos and misspellings.
You can use a standard word processor, such as MS Word, to spell check the entire text and make sure your documents are error-free.
Some documents already translated may not be eligible or ready to be published for some specific purposes or institutions, such as legal or medical documents, so it’s recommended contacting your final publisher to confirm if the documents are valid and correct.
Make sure the translation is carried out following your instructions, reference materials, style guide, and glossary if provided.
A translation should include all the content in the source documents, all names and numbers should be rendered, and industry-specific terms have to be double-checked for accuracy and consistency reasons.
Regarding tone and register, the style of language should be suitable for the culture and audience, and the translated text should read fluent and like the original document.
Although sometimes a literal translation may be the best option, this is a common mistake, especially with young translators, so special care must be taken at this point.
The text in the translation should follow the same formatting as in the original document regarding fonts, colors, spacing, etc.
When the target document has a numbered table of contents, pay special attention to page numbers as these should be updated according to the target document extent, which usually differs from the source text.
Also, local conventions should be addressed regarding currency, numbers, demonym (adjective of place), etc.
There may be a lot more issues arising after translation is completed.
Always consult your language service provider any doubt or questions you may have so that your final copy meets all quality standards and requirements previously set out.